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Ban the Box: State-by-State

States and cities across the country have implemented Ban the Box legislation in recent years. Now, federal lawmakers are considering a law which would encourage holdout states to pass Ban the Box bills themselves.

Recently, St Louis joined the list of cities with its own law, while New York City and Illinois updated their legislation. To help employers, we’ve created a guide to criminal background check laws by state and city for 2021.

One in Three American Adults Have a Criminal History

In the past, having a criminal history prevented some potentially great job candidates from being hired, regardless of how long ago the crime took place, how minor the infraction was, or how good of a fit they might be for the role. When you consider that an estimated 70 million Americans—one in three Americans who are of working age—have some kind of criminal history, it’s not difficult to understand how requiring a squeaky-clean record could become problematic for some jobs.

Even People Without Convictions Can Be Discriminated Against

Many criminal background checks fail to distinguish between someone being arrested or charged and actually being convicted. Potential employees are routinely asked on job applications if they’ve “ever been arrested for a serious crime.” Not if they have a conviction history…simply arrested. It’s easy to see how checking “yes” on this box could be used to take some candidates out of the running for a job.

This is exactly the reason why many states and localities are passing laws to protect job hunters who have a criminal record from being immediately disqualified during the hiring process.

What is a “Ban the Box” Law?

A “ban the box” law prohibits employers from requesting a potential employee’s criminal history on a job application in certain states and localities. Some laws forbid a company from asking if the candidate was ever sentenced for a crime until a specific time in the hiring process, such as during an interview or after a conditional offer of employment.

Ban the Box Is Good for Children and Families

Colorado is one of the most recent states with laws requiring employers to ban the box with its Colorado Chance to Compete Act (CCCA). They, like other states that have implemented the ban, found that,

“Previous involvement with the criminal justice system often creates a significant barrier to employment in that applicants with criminal histories are less likely to be considered for an available job when that information is included on an initial job application… Children and families suffer when people with criminal histories are unable to work or work at jobs that are below their potential given their education and skills….”

Additionally, including a criminal history question on an application often results in disparate impact discrimination. Because Latino and African American men are arrested and convicted at a higher rate than Caucasian men, an employment application asking about criminal history has a disproportionate impact on them.

Credit Checks Can Also Be Considered a Discriminatory Act

Several states also have laws that prevent an employer from using a person’s credit history to make employment decisions. A credit history background check can also be lumped under “disparate impact discrimination” as it can have a negative impact on women and minorities. These two groups are more likely to experience bankruptcies or have poor credit reports. Generally, states that have credit check restrictions allow for one if the job in question is for a financial institution or where the applicant would otherwise have access to financial data.

Ban the Box Laws: By States and Cities and Counties

Here’s a quick snap shot of the U.S. and which states have banned the box. For a deeper dive into criminal background check laws by state, check out the chart below.

state laws for ban the box

State  Municipality  Covered Employers  Notes 
Alabama    No Law   
Alaska    No Law   
Arizona    Now Law   
Arkansas    No Law   
California    Employers with 5+ employees No criminal background check until after a job offer (See recent FAQs)
  Compton Contractors doing business with Compton No criminal background check until after a job offer
  Los Angeles Any employer with 10+ employees No criminal background check until after a job offer
  Richmond Private sector employers with 10+ employees that have contracts with Richmond regardless of where employer is based  
  San Francisco Employers with 5+ employees No criminal background check until after a job offer
Colorado    Effective 9/1/19 for employers with 11+ employees; effective on or after 9/1/21 for all employers   
Connecticut    All employers  No criminal history question on job applications with some exceptions
  Hartford Contractors doing business with Hartford No background check until after job offer
  New Haven Contractors doing business with New Haven No background check until after job offer
Delaware    No Law   
District of Columbia    Employers with 11+ employees  No background check until after job offer 
Florida    No Law   
Georgia    No Law  
Hawaii    All private employers  No criminal background check until after job offer. Then, employers may only inquire about felony convictions within the past seven years and five years misdemeanors, excluding periods of incarceration. 
Idaho    No Law   
Illinois    Private employers with 15+ employees  No criminal background check before job interview, or until after job offer if no interview. Job applicants can only be disqualified if a conviction has a “substantial relationship” to the position.
  Chicago Private employers with fewer than 15 employees No criminal background check before job interview, or until after job offer if no interview
  Cook County Private employers with fewer than 15 employees No criminal background check before job interview, or until after job offer if no interview
Indiana    No Law   
  Indianapolis Contractors doing business with Indianapolis Criminal history questions only after first interview
Iowa    No Law   
Kansas    No Law   
Kentucky    No Law  
  Louisville Contractors doing business with Louisville City may end contracts with companies that do not ban the box
Louisiana    No Law   
  New Orleans Contractors doing business with New Orleans No criminal history questions on job applications
Maine    No Law   
Maryland    No Law   
  Baltimore Employers with 10+ employees No background check until after job offer
  Montgomery County Employers with 15+ employees No criminal history questions or checks until after first interview
  Prince George’s County Employers with 25+ full-time employees No criminal history questions or checks until after first interview
Massachusetts    All private employers No criminal history questions on application. Also bans questions about certain types of crimes later in the hiring process.
  Boston Contractors/vendors doing business with Boston  
  Cambridge Contractors/vendors doing business with Cambridge  
  Worcester Contractors/vendors doing business with Worcester  
Michigan    Employers with 15+ employees  
  Detroit Contractors doing business with Detroit when contract is $25,000+ No questions about criminal convictions until interview or qualification
  Kalamazoo Contractors doing business with Kalamazoo when contract is $25,000+ or those seeking tax abatement Must commit to not use criminal history to discriminate
Minnesota    All private employers  No criminal history inquiries on job application with limited exceptions
Mississippi    No Law   
Missouri    No Law  
  Columbia All employers in Columbia No criminal history check until after conditional job offer
  Kansas City Private employers with six+ employees No criminal history check until after job interview
  St. Louis Private employers with 10+ employees No criminal history check until after job interview. When making hiring and promotion decisions based on criminal record, employers must demonstrate that decision is based on all available information. Hiring forms and job advertisements mustn’t exclude applicants based on criminal history. 
Montana    No Law   
Nebraska    No Law   
Nevada    No Law   
New Hampshire    No Law   
New Jersey    Employers with 15+ employees over 20 calendar weeks Preempts local laws
New Mexico    All private employers  Can consider a conviction after reviewing an application and discussing employment with the applicant
New York    No Law   
  Buffalo Private employers with 15+ employees/contractors doing business with Buffalo No criminal history questions on job applications
  New York City All employers with 4+ employees No criminal background check prior to conditional job offer. On July 29, 2021, Fair Chance legislation will be extended to current employees.  
  Rochester All employers with 4+ employees and contractors doing business with Rochester Criminal background check only after initial job interview or conditional job offer
  Syracuse City contractors No background checks until after conditional job offer
North Carolina    No Law   
North Dakota    No Law   
Ohio    No Law  
Oklahoma    No Law   
Oregon    All private employers Illegal to exclude applicant from an interview solely due to past criminal conviction
  Portland Employers with 6+ employees No criminal background check prior to conditional job offer
Pennsylvania    No Law  
  Philadelphia All employers with at least one employee in Philadelphia No criminal background check prior to conditional job offer. (As of April 1, 2021, protections are extended to gig workers and independent contractors.)  
  Pittsburgh Contractors/vendors doing business with Pittsburgh No criminal history check before applicant is deemed otherwise qualified
Rhode Island    Employers with 4+ employees  No criminal background check on job applications
South Carolina    No Law   
South Dakota    No Law   
Tennessee    No Law   
Texas    No Law   
  Austin Employers with 15+ employees No criminal background check prior to conditional job offer
Utah    No Law   
Vermont    All private employers No criminal history questions on job application
Virginia  No Law  
Washington    All private employers  No criminal history check before applicant is deemed otherwise qualified
  Seattle All employers with 1+ employees Must have a legitimate business reason to automatically exclude applicants with arrest or conviction records
  Spokane All private employers No criminal history questions before a job interview
West Virginia    No Law  
Wisconsin    No Law   
  Madison Contractors doing business with Madison on contracts worth $25,000+ No criminal history questions or background checks until after conditional job offer
Wyoming    No Law   

How Paycor Helps

We’re proud to keep more than 30,000 organizations informed about and compliant with federal and state laws and regulations. Want to see how Paycor can help you mitigate risk? Check out our article on hiring compliance, or talk to a Paycor representative.

The information provided in our chart is for educational purposes only; it is not legal advice. Always check regulations to help ensure compliance.